July 21, 2008

Jumping the gun

I have a wonderful friend who came to me yesterday not knowing how to handle a situation she'd had that morning with her teenage daughter.

Here's what happened: Daughter had bought some mascara that came with blue eyeshadow. The proviso for the purchase is that the eyeshadow was not to be worn. WELL...Sunday morning ready for church, the daughter walks out with the blue eyeshadow on. Mum 'made' the daughter go back and take the eyeshadow off...daughter called mum a not so nice name (let's just say it rhymes with switch) Mum then grounded her daughter for life....OK...so maybe not life but for a month.

So my friend asked me "How would you handle it?"

I went one better and asked her "How would Heavenly Father handle it?"

My friend was quick to point out that anyone who called Heavenly Father a name would be 'zapped' or 'flattened'.

I pointed out that Heavenly Father gets called names, 'damned', verbally abused, and spoken of in the most awful ways constantly and does not 'zap' the offenders.

We spoke about how to deal with what happened in the morning and how to deal with a month of 'grounding'. (I've always tried to avoid grounding children because it can end up being a punishment for ME.) Here's what we came up with: When we over react to what our children do, I think it's important to be able to go and talk to the child/ren involved and let them know that we realize we jumped the gun. This is what I suggested for my friend to do.

I also think it's OK to tell our children that we are learning as we go. I remember my mother or father telling me that they were new to 'this' too. Although I was their 5th child in 'teenage-hood' I was their first 'Wendy' teenager therefore it was a whole new experience for them. Every child is different as is dealing with them in their teenage years.

As for the grounding, it's best to take a deep breath before making 'punishments' so that what is chosen will fit the 'crime' and will be one that you can follow through with. Sometimes after talking with your child you can tell that the child realizes what they did was inappropriate and you see a contrite heart. At these times you can actually ask your child what punishment they think is appropriate. Most of the time you will find that what they come up with IS perfect. If they suggest that maybe a bowl of ice cream is the best punishment then of course it means they have a good sense of humour and that you can work out a compromise.

One of last things we spoke about was 'choosing your battles'. Her daughter looking like a 'blue ringed octopus' was not going to ruin their chances of being a 'forever family'. It was not going to cause accidents or financial stress on the family. The worst that could come out of it is embarrassment for the daughter.

Finally we spoke about an important roll as a parent and that is that we should not be MAKING our children make good choices but rather helping them to learn to make good choices. The worst thing a parent can do is make all the choices for the child as they grow and then when they reach 18 the child is let 'loose', so to speak, they act on their 'I'll show her' instinct and make poor choices. So please parents...don't force your children into making the right choice (you and I both voted against that kind of plan before even coming to this world) but rather assist them in learning to make their own good choices. Just like the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” (Messages of the First Presidency, comp. James R. Clark, 6 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75, 3:54.)

As always in parenting...GOOD LUCK to us all.

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